Wednesday, October 6, 2010

26. Raichu

I’ve sometimes heard Raichu cited as an example of pokemon evolution being predictable; as the rule goes, take a pokemon and make it bigger, meaner, and less appealing, and you’ve got its evolved form. Raichu’s got a lot going against it—Pikachu won’t evolve at all unless you apply a thunderstone, and since Raichu can’t learn any attacks by leveling up, you’ve got every facet of the game and related media encouraging you not to own one. But Pikachu is cuter! Pikachu gets stronger over time! Naturally my sympathies drift towards Raichu in these circumstances.

I for one think its design is pretty cool. Right down to the kangaroo feet, and the oddly elaborate, lamp-post ornament ears. Its weird “electric pouches” are light-colored and better blend in to its other features. And the tail! Let me tell you, I had a rubbery Raichu figurine as a kid, and I was utterly convinced it could wield that thing like some kind of supercharged lightsaber axe blade. It’s got an intuitive, whiplike posability to it, and looking at its official artwork I can see Ken Sugimori agrees:

I mean that’s half your horizontal space being used to accommodate its tail right there. This also turns up in its HG/SS sprite. Possibly the best tail in Pokemon. (I could also make the case for Onix/Steelix but they’re just big tails with heads at the end.)

Another thing I like is Pikachu and Raichu are some of the few pokemon that got to keep their Japanese names. “Rai” means thunder. There was a mass rechristening when Pokemon got regionalized that provided us with stunningly clever names like Seel and Krabby, so thankfully these were spared or I’d be sitting here arguing the merits of Thundermouse, probably with a bit less conviction.

The Winner:
FireRed and Leafgreen

So some things established about Raichu: he’s pretty boss and he’s got a sweet tail. HG/SS incorporates those pretty well, but here’s what sets this one apart: Raichu’s arms are completely useless. His legs, his skull, his tail, his electricity powers, all more viable weapons to bring to a gunfight, but does he care? No, man. He’ll mess you up with those two inch stubby arms. Give you a good working over, the ol’ one-two, introduce you to his good friends Protein and Rare Candy. That conviction, frankly, is adorable and terrifying.

What I can’t get behind, though, is a just-happy-to-be-here sprite like in D/P. If you’ve forced a radioactive stone-fueled mutation upon your Pikachu that cripples its learning abilities forever just so it can be a more efficient killing machine, it’s time to face it: you’re not into raising pokemon for them to look cute and happy.


  1. Omg, I did the exact same thing with my Raichu figure :D it really does look like an axe, huh?

  2. My strategy, the one time I ever raised a Pickachu, was to get it's level to one hundred before evolving it... Which took forever, and I still ended up putting my Raichu into a box forever.

  3. I don't think Raichu is an extremely predictable evolution, at least, not as predictable as a lot of them out there... You would expect the final evolution to be big, tough and scary, but this one goes right on being chubby and cute. Plus, it doesn't look too similar to its previous form, but not too different either.

  4. Haha, I also had that Raichu figure, and thought the same thing.

    Funny how the Yellow sprite decided to make it a blinding yellow with orange cheeks, when the opposite would be easier on the eyes and more true to the artwork.

  5. I like how in the 3D battle games, Raichu uses Surf by riding its own tail.

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